By Downtown Dad
“Agua.” “Banana.” “Dada.” “Gogigo.” And, one time…“ank u.”
My son once had words to express himself. Granted, three of them sounded alike and he never went much beyond those essentials, but those words were his, and we were proud. “Look at our preemie man go!” my wife and I thought. “Maybe they’ll ask him to skip a grade.”
At 19 months, it’s still too early to bet on his getting into Harvard. So we’re sticking to the basics, like practicing vowel sounds and repeating some basic words.
Unfortunately, Louie for some reason stopped using the few words he knew and that brought us so much joy. Now he grunts and points to his water cup, shrieks for a banana, and grins instead of saying “ank u.” And “gogigo?” It’s gogigone, and we never could figure out what it meant anyway.
I even tried “gogigo” and he looked at me as if to say, “What the heck does that mean?”
Before panicking and sending Louie off to speech therapy, we did a little research and are relieved to report that this is pretty normal for a toddler. According to “What to Expect: The Toddler Years,” by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff, and Sandee B. Hathaway, all kids learn speech the same way: first words, then phrases, then sentences. And according to their personal timetable, they will often speed up, slow down or stop using words for awhile.
The reasons are varied. Toddlers who are early walkers or climbers can talk later, as they put more of their energy into the physical. Lack of verbal stimulation can inhibit language development, as can parents who anticipate their toddler’s every need, like handing them the water as soon as they have a thirsty look in their eye (yes, that’s us).
The good news is that late talkers may have better pronunciation and a bigger vocabulary simply because they are more mature when they start to speak.
As long as your toddler seems to understand your questions, can follow statements and can respond to simple commands, he’s doing fine. But you can always check in with your pediatrician if you have lingering worries.
And don’t forget that half of communication is listening.
The other day, I drove past a business in Culver City that caught my eye. It was called Yogiyo.
Now, I finally get it. All this time, Louie just wanted some frozen yogurt.